Page images

could supply, would be found essential to the success of James, who had sufficiently shown that he hoped to recover by force what in a moment of panic he had so hastily relinquished. These views she had communicated to her little family circle, as an incentive to more earnest prayer, since nothing short of divine power could interpose between the project and its accomplishment. Bryan was fully convinced that she predicted rightly as to the importance of that post; and the subject was frequently canvassed among his young companions, who entered into its discussion with the vivid feelings of men whose earthly all was involved in the question.

Tyrconnel, the unprincipled viceroy of James, had, in his eagerness to swell his master's disposable forces, withdrawn from Derry its accustomed garrison—a welcome relief to the minds of the many who dreaded such defenders far more than any evils from which they might assist to shield them. Entire subserviency to the views of James had rendered these troops a terror to their Protestant fellow subjects; and now, whilst almost every other place of note was strongly garrisoned by the partizans of James, Derry enjoyed the singular privilege of being under the guardianship of her own citizens. Whispers were abroad in the streets that such a privilege would not be lightly relinquished ; and looks, more eloquent than words, gave frequent pledge of mutual fidelity, as from their barrier-walls they gazed upon

the winding Foyle, and calculated the strength of their position. But these were ebullitions of youthful spirits, extorting the smile of pity, or provoking the rebuke of prudence, from their more experienced companions.

The chills of December were now striking their paralyzing influence into every department of the natural world, and its snows began to whiten on the neighbouring hills. The Protestants of Derry remained unmolested, but conscious that perils were thickening around them : the numerous Roman Catholics within its walls generally wearing an aspect calculated to increase the perturbation, and with trembling solicitude was the appearance of Bryan M'Alister hailed whenever he approached the retired dwelling of his kindred.

Even old Shane now found a ready audience for his exaggerated reports ; and it was with no sliglit degree of terror that Letitia and Ellen beheld him break abruptly into their sitting-room, after a short absence, with a countenance full of important information.

“ What is it, Shane ? " was the anxious enquiry.

“ Indeed, and it's bad enough for the like of you to hear, poor fatherless creatures that ye be! Its out and out true, that next Sunday, the ninth of this very month, every Protestant soul will be murdered. I'm just after seeing the letter come in from Enniskillen, where the brave lads are defending the place : and there's a big army coming up upon us, to be here in no time at all; and the bloody Papists whetting their knives in open day, all over the town. Musha, but we'll be all slaughtered like a flock of


Before the old man could recover his breath, Bryan entered : his countenance was pale, but an air of fixed determination pervaded every feature, and seemed to nerve his whole frame.

With a rapid, but silent glance, he scanned the agitated circle, and then rested his intelligent eyes on his grandmother.

“ It is true," he said, “ what Shane has no doubt communicated to you. A plan of general massacre is divulged, and the day after to-morrow fixed for its perpetration. Lord Antrim's regiment of Irish and Scotch, alike hostile to our faith, is on the advance towards

and the ferocious soldiery are even outnumbered by more furious women and wild young boys, armed with skenes, with pikes, and whatsoever instruments of destruction they can get hold of.”

Ellen flew to her mother, who, with a sigh of silent despair, clasped her arms around the shuddering girl. Letitia sunk back on her seat, gazing with bewildered looks from one to another of the party. Bryan remained, his eyes fastened on those of his grandmother, who raised them to heaven,

us ;

while Shane exclaimed, “ The gates, Master Bryan; ye were talking of that."

“ Of the gates ?” said the old lady, casting an enquiring glance at her grandson.

“ There was a talk among us of closing them,” said Bryan, “but the corporation checked that suggestion; and yet-grandmother-where the means are at hand.”—He was proceeding in a tone of deepening energy, when another young man of the city rushed into the house.

“M‘Alister," he exclaimed, “why do you loiter? Our lives hang by a whisp of hay. Those whitelivered aldermen are temporizing and higgling, ready enough to sacrifice us all as the price of their own proper immunity.”

“ For shame, Ross,” interrupted Bryan ; you

wrong them.”

“ Then let them right themselves, the calculating drones. M‘Alister, do you flinch ? You were forward enough just now. Why, man, there are already two companies of infernals arrived at the water-side, attended by a host of furies, actually drunk with rage, and yelling for blood; while the little butchering ruffians, boys from eight or ten years old, are brandishing their knives, and prepared to take their initiatory lesson in the art of torturing from their more practised companions.”

“ Away !” exclaimed Bryan; and regardless even of the cries that implored his retum, in voices so dear to him, he ran off at full speed with Ross.

To describe the state of the city is utterly impossible; groups of terrified Protestants were seen congregated in the streets, their low whisper and sidelong glance of half-suppressed suspicion, following the steps of every neighbour who held the contrary persuasion. Undissembled triumph sat on the features of the many friars and priests, who, in evident expectation, paraded the town, while, in strong contrast, an Episcopal or Presbyterian minister, with meek resignation pourtrayed on his countenance, might be seen encouraging bis trembling hearers to a firmer trust in the Most High. Others of the clergy, with official men, merchants, and here and there a military officer, were grouped in close and earnest debate. Rapidly passing by these, the two young men reached that quarter of the city which fronts the Foyle ; and there, on the opposite bank, called the Water-side, Bryan beheld an ample confirmation of his friend's report.

At this period, the two officers in command of the assailants were crossing the river in a ferryboat, for the purpose of demanding admission for their companies; and these, crowding to the water's edge, presented a most appalling spectacle to the devoted inhabitants. Ross had by no means exaggerated the horrors of their aspect. A more formidable body of assailants the imagination could not picture. Wild,

« PreviousContinue »